Thursday, April 22, 2010

More on the Stanford charter school

LDH is, of course, furiously spinning things her way, but fortunately Sandy Kress has been doing some digging and has posted what he's found – and it's not pretty (Kress "served as senior advisor to President Bush on Education with respect to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Mr. Kress previously served as president of the board of trustees of the Dallas Public Schools. He has served on two statewide committees to recommend improvements to Texas public education."; his bio is here:


Kress (and I) are spending a lot of time analyzing this school because it's the embodiment of very influential (unfortunately) thinking perpetuated by LDH, Ravitch and similarly fuzzy-minded ed school types that is largely hostile to the rigorous measurement systems and accountability that our school systems so desperately need.  Kress makes the argument nicely:

  1. sandy kress Says:
    April 21st, 2010 at 10:47 am

Andy, I want to say that I agree with your original comment on this subject that there is nothing funny about this story. Nor is there anything that merits gloating, irrespective of one's feelings about Linda Darling-Hammond.

It's sad and actually tragic to document the failings of this school. Darling-Hammond has been very critical of Teach for America, other non-traditional teacher preparation programs, many charter and choice programs, as well as, of course, accountability and NCLB.

I think she set this school up to show the world that she had a better mousetrap than the reformers she criticized.

And now we're learning that she doesn't.

The reason I'm probing the data so deeply is that I think it's important to learn why the school is failing. I don't know for sure, but my hypothesis is that the school does not rigorously and effectively teach to California's standards. If I'm right, that poses an unusual and very timely problem.

We are in the midst of an energizing debate around the country about the need to raise standards, to make them higher, clearer, and fewer. This is a good debate, and much of value has come out of it, including solid drafts from the CCSSO/NGA work. It is also good, in my opinion, in that some states want to argue that their standards are EVEN better than the proposed common standards. I don't know whether any such arguments will be proved correct or not. The main thing is that there's a very productive stir to raise standards around the country as the next step in the reform movement.

What's worrisome about the Stanford school may be that despite the pretty words and high fallutin' goals this school gives us a peek into the future where high standards are just a "thing on the page." And the real teaching and assessment are really about something else – perhaps looser, lesser, less agreed-upon learning objectives.

I saw this trend close-up when I first got into reform activity 20 years ago. A lot of effort then went into developing "world class" standards and then states, districts, and schools pretty much ignored them, allowing sort of an "anything goes" approach.

Whatever its shortcomings, the standards based reform movement, including importantly the IASA and NCLB and legislation in the pioneer states, changed all that, and the NAEP data from 1999-2009 show we've made great strides at most levels and for most kids.

We have much further work to do. And the direction of this administration is largely positive in showing us the next steps we need to take to keep making progress and gains.

But this school is, I fear, the canary in the dirty mine of low expectations where fuzzy goals and actual neglect of the power of standards are the operative strategy. The miserable results for poor and minority students in the school, particularly relative to the data for such students in similarly situated schools, must lead us to ask many questions.

The answers to these questions will be important as we go forward, not only in completing the Raise to the Top, innovation, and assessment programs, but also in reauthorizing ESEA.

I don't mean to be light about this, Andy, but I see that you titled this segment with an echo of the old Sam Cooke song, "Wonderful World." In the spirit that you've set, my next post will be about history and biology.

Here's a blog post (not by Kress) that I think pretty well captures what's REALLY going on:

The greater tragedy is that Linda and Stanford continue to prepare teachers and other educators at Stanford. Stanford's excellent programs in business, law, medicine and technology create the false impression that the education school knows what it is doing.

As a former graduate student at Stanford, I can say from personal experience that the ignorance of the education faculty is truly astounding. Their lack of understanding of effective instruction never ceased to amaze me. Most specialize in areas unrelated to effective basic skills instruction and really should not be on faculty in a program that provides certification to teaching professionals.

How can smart people be so dumb?

The only solution that I can see is that the professors from Stanford's legitimately world class departments such as engineering and medicine be required to sign off on tenure decisions in the education school.

Linda should not be allowed contact with students at Stanford and the Obama administration should be very wary of her and the other "false prophets" who predominate in education.

Kress then thoroughly rebuts LDH's claim that the high school is doing a fine job educating its students:


·  sandy kress Says:
April 19th, 2010 at 12:29 pm

I want to take a moment to reflect on the inaccurate notion left in the NYT story that, even though the elementary school is doing terribly, the high school is doing well. The story cited grad rates and college-going rates.

So, I decided to go to the same site Andy referenced to dig deeper. While the high school is indeed doing better relative to its peers than the inexcusably bad elementary program, it's not doing well at all.

Of the 11th graders in 2009 who took the Cal State EAP screen, EXACTLY ZERO passed on language arts readiness. As to math, only 11% passed. This means that not a single student at the end of the 11th grade was academically ready to go to a Cal State campus without need of remediation.

I realize that the school had the 12th grade to work on the problem, but, if college/career readiness is our new goal, and we want to promote more dual credit and early college work in the 12th grade, the high school is falling way short, too.

I raise the question again: does this school square its curricula and teacher focus on the state standards, whether they be the k-12 standards or the standards underlying the EAP. If not, what does this tell us about Ms. Darling-Hammond's commitment to agreed-upon, high academic content standards?


According to California's STAR data, only 5% of the school's high school students are proficient or above in geometry. If one were to look at a scatterplot of California schools, the even worse news is that Hispanic students in this particular school are performing near the bottom relative to their peers in other schools.

I ask again: does this school teach to the standards, or not?


  1. sandy kress Says:
    April 21st, 2010 at 11:12 am

Let's talk biology. Less than 10% of the African American, Hispanic, and low income students in the Stanford high school are proficient or above in biology. It's clear from scatterplots of schools in California that this school is among the bottom performers in educating these subgroups in biology.

As to US History, only 6% of all the students in the high school are proficient or above. Now, I don't know whether readers might be thinking actually that proficient and advanced might be too rigorous standards. I hope not, but just in case, I thought I'd mention that 65% of the students in the high school are either below basic OR far below basic in US history.

My next installment will be on AP and the strangely high number of students who are leaving the school to go back to other public schools.


·  Sandy Kress Says:
April 18th, 2010 at 8:30 am

The serious issue is not whether these other schools teach to the test. The real issue is whether Ms. Darling-Hammond's school teaches to the standards. My hypothesis is that that's the problem. How else can you explain the fact that only 19% of her 3rd graders are proficient or better in math when the statewide average is 64%?

Ms. Ravitch's answer, when boiled down to its naked, ugly truth, is that poor kids can't learn. Andy, your chart utterly disproves this explanation. Poor, minority kids are achieving in good schools at levels well above the statewide averages.

It can't be for lack of resources. The school, relative to its peers, is richly endowed.

It can't be for lack of credentialed teachers. Recall that part of the rationale for this school was that college of ed teachers could beat the pants off schools taught by TFAers and their ilk. I'll leave this one for the moment.

My hypothesis is that Ms. Darling-Hammond and her colleagues were not committed to teaching to the agreed-upon standards, or at least doing so effectively and with fidelity. I know this is a serious charge, particularly in light of the administration's commitment to high standards as central to improving educational achievement.

So, I think it's important to ask the truly relevant questions:

1) Which of California's math standards does Ms. Darling-Hammond think are unimportant?

2) How carefully were the school's curricula aligned with the standards?

3) How dedicated and prepared were the school's teachers to teaching to the standards?

4) How aligned were the school's formative assessments to the standards?

All of this might be academic and just a story of a failed school under other circumstances, but, given Ms. Darling-Hammond's relationships and roles and the current, important movement to higher standards, these are questions that really should be answered.


sandy kress Says:
April 21st, 2010 at 12:06 am

Andy, as you know, I support many of President Obama's education initiatives.
I agree wholeheartedly that we need greater proficiency in math and science.
Also, I like the new focus on graduating students ready for college or career.

So, the question today is how many future chemistry students is Stanford likely to find in the Sanford high school?
Indeed, one could ask how many students in this school could study chemistry without remediation at any college.

Sadly, the answer is none. Why?

0% of the low income students in the Stanford high school are proficient or above in chemistry.
That's zero.

0% of the African American students in the Stanford high school are proficient or above in chemistry.
That's zero.

0% of the Hispanic students in the Stanford high school are proficient or above in chemistry.
That's zero.

And finally:

sandy kress Says:
April 20th, 2010 at 7:52 am

As to the last two comments:

1. Read Ravitch's quote in the NYT story. She says one shouldn't expect schools to raise achievement scores unless poverty and other factors are addressed first.
Look at the poverty schools who did lift achievement in Andy's chart. She's just wrong, and it must be pointed out. Good teachers in good schools, unlike this one at Stanford, are educating poor kids effectively all over the country.

2. As to Texas, I'm not here to defend Texas. Our state does pretty well but could do a lot better. I happen to agree that TAKS has a ridiculously low ceiling and should be replaced.
I helped push legislation last session to do just that. We have many schools that educate poor kids well and many, like Darling-Hammond's, that don't.
Trust me – I'm as hard on them as I am on Darling-Hammond's. The only difference perhaps is that the principals or founders of these schools typically haven't sanctimoniously attacked TFA, charter schools, alternative sources of teachers, and accountability at the same time they run their ineffective schools.

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